For a decade now, Roland Rogers Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Brian Dunn has fought childhood cancer through the St. Baldrick's Foundation, shaving his head in solidarity with cancer patients each March to raise money for their cause.
As an individual, Dunn has been prolific, bringing in thousands of dollars over the years. But when Dunn and Assistant Principal Michael Silvestri brought the program to Roland Rogers two years ago, it blew up. Solo, Dunn brought in $500 to $,1000 a year, but with his team, he has achieved far more, last year setting a new high mark with $7,649 raised.
With the event set to return to the school March 15, Dunn said he is excited to see if his students and colleagues can outdo themselves.
"We want to push the students and teachers and everybody involved," the Galloway Township resident said. "We're going for $8,000, that's our goal."
Teachers Sean McCarthy, Joey Palumbo, Joseph Conte, David Martin and John McHale will have their heads shaved before their students' eyes by volunteers from Tangles Beauty Studio in Galloway at an assembly in the school's auditorium.
As an added incentive for the kids, Silvestri will sacrifice his locks with the group if they reach their goal of $8,000.
Dunn, who is in his 10th year at Roland Rogers, first got involved in the project in the early 2000s as a member of the Absecon Volunteer Fire Department. Even before he brought the program to Roland Rogers officially, many staff and students donated to his individual effort. In 2010, he got three colleagues to join him at a local event. In 2011, an event was held at the school for the first time, and it has grown each year since.
The program has proven a good fit at Roland Rogers both because the school community has been a champion of the cause and because it offers the students a fun first taste of charity.
"It really has been received really well, and I think it's really great for the students to get exposure to giving to someone else, to charity," Dunn said.
St. Baldrick's, which was established in 2000, is a highly regarded charity, with 82 percent of its 2012 budget given away as grants for cancer research against 16 percent used in fundraising and 2 percent given to administrators.
Silvestri was a new addition to the shavee group last year after the students hit their goal of $5,000. He said he was a bit nervous about having his head shaved last year - he had never rocked the unadorned look before - but said afterwards he was glad he took part.
"I looked at myself in the mirror, and I could really appreciate what we did and how we were helping raise awareness for those kids and families," Silvestri said.
While his son didn't share his enthusiasm, telling him last year that his haircut looked "funny," Silvestri said he's excited to again participate in the fundraiser.
McCarthy, who was with Dunn in 2010, is likewise pumped for the program. But while the participants are eagerly awaiting March 15, none is looking forward to it more than the students, he said. "The kids, they're counting down the days," McCarthy said.
For more information on Roland Rogers' involvement in St. Baldrick's or to donate to their effort, see stbaldricks.org/events/rolandrogers.
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